WE had the budget this week which revealed just how much of a mess the country is in.
It was in fact the worst statement of public finances since World War Two.
The disturbing thought that we shall be borrowing £606bn over the next four years if the plans are implemented should give us all pause for thought.
That is a level of borrowing greater than the last time this country had to go to the International Monetary Fund for help; so what does that hold for the future? It is worrying to know that we are the worst affected country amongst the G20 advanced industrial nations.
All our instincts are to tighten the belt at times of uncertainty and I fear an opportunity was lost this week to grip a situation where the public finances are running out of control.
There is no avoiding cuts. Whoever wins the election will have to cut the rate of public spending and indeed the government is slowing the rate of growth of spending which is a step in that direction.
It has proposed cuts in capital spending for the NHS, schools and universities by 2013 but maybe it would be better to start spending restraint now in order to get the level of debt down and get us out of recession faster.
It’s the next generation – my kids and yours – who will be paying off the debt. That figure used to be £17,000 for every new born baby but after the budget the figure has risen to £22,500.
I feel really sorry for them because it is not the fault of today’s young people that we are in this mess. And they are the ones who are finding it so hard to get on the property ladder and often have student loans to pay off as well.
At the other end of the age spectrum pensioners have been hard hit by the cuts in interest rates which have reduced their income from savings.
So it was good to hear the government aspiration to help savers and pensioners on modest incomes but the best way to do that would be to lift basic rate taxpayers out of tax on their savings and increase pensioners’ tax allowances.
I can see a clash emerging where people’s homes are re-possessed at a time when the council’s housing list is running at an all time high of 11,000 people. We must do all we can to maintain people in their own homes because there simply is nowhere else for them.
So far the mortgage rescue schemes have not helped many people and the threshold level of properties below £147,000 simply means most property in the borough does not qualify anyway.
Finally we must do more much more to help business and manufacturing in particular.
Deferring the 5 per cent increase in business rates was good but it is only a deferment and has to be paid in the end.
If only councils had the discretion to discount the rates to keep business going then many good businesses could survive.